Roque and the Speaker’s ‘open secret’
Partylist Rep. Harry Roque justified House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s extramarital affair as an “open secret.” He said, “Everyone knew in Congress about the Speaker’s girlfriend even as his wife chaired the nonprofit foundation of congressional spouses soon after he was sworn in to head the House of Representatives in July last year” (News, 4/4/17).
Differentiating the Speaker’s case from that of Sen. Leila de Lima, who was castigated by House members for her love affair with her driver-bodyguard, Roque explained that Alvarez never concealed his estrangement from his wife of 30 years and his relationship with the girlfriend. Roque further said that the affair seemed to be not an issue to his constituents in Davao, to whom Alvarez was answerable. I disagree with Roque.
Firstly, as a public official, Alvarez should have been, to say the least, discreet in his illicit affair. Being discreet about the affair is not being hypocrite or prudish; it’s just preventing it from getting scandalous. And the issue is not whether his constituents tolerate his dalliances; it is whether it is wrong in the eyes of the law.
It is the “policy of the state to promote a high standard of ethics in public service” (Section 2, Code of Conduct and Ethical and Standards for Public Officials and Employees). Yes, a public official or employee is expected, among others, to keep and promote ethical and moral values.
And lawyers like Speaker Alvarez are bound by strict norms of conduct. Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that “A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.” Engaging in extramarital affair is a form of cheating or deception. Rule 7.03, Canon 7 of the same code also provides that “A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.”
Also, Alvarez’s public indiscretion may constitute concubinage under Article 334 of the Revised Penal Code which penalizes “any husband who shall keep a mistress in the conjugal dwelling or shall have sexual intercourse, under scandalous circumstances, with a woman who is not his wife, or shall cohabit with her in any other place.” And if the act does not qualify as a concubinage nor an offense, there is yet another provision in the penal code which states: “The penalties of arresto mayor and public censure shall be imposed upon any person who shall offend against decency or good customs by any scandalous conduct not expressly falling within any other article of this Code.”
Lastly, indeed it is illogical to compare the Speaker’s love affair with De Lima’s. First, De Lima was not a married person at the time of her dalliance with Dayan. Second, and more important, while it is true that the Speaker’s personal life has absolutely nothing to do with his corruption complaint against Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr., the salacious details of De Lima’s love affair with Dayan, including how they called each other and how intimate they had become, were as totally irrelevant to her alleged involvement in the drug trade and payoffs in the national penitentiary that his apologists in the House investigating committee fished for evidence.
DIOSDADO V. CALONGE, [email protected]
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